The Passion of Christ-Makers
By William E. Alberts
In teaching love of one's neighbor as oneself and in
intervening on behalf of his oppressed Jewish
neighbors, Jesus set an example for the behavior of
those who would follow his pathway to eternal life. It
is here that the dynamic of belief may come into play.
It is much easier to worship what Jesus did than to do
what he worshipped. It is safer to believe that Jesus
died for the sins of the world than to join in seeking
to rid the world of political, corporate, and military
sins that deny neighbors' their birthright of freedom
Institutionalized religion often immortalizes its
saints in order to immobilize them. A way to
neutralize the threat posed by the example of the
prophets and patriots is to turn their liberation
movement into a monument and worship it. Vicarious
identification with their struggles may be substituted
for involvement in similar ethical struggles today.
The stature is found in the statue. The right is
remembered in the rite. The power is in the prayer.
The radical footstep is encased in a freedom trail.
The ethic is observed as a memory and avoided as a
Belief in Christ as one's personal savior can also
invite a narcissism that encourages self-centeredness
rather than identification with one's neighbors. Such
narcissism may even reinforce obliviousness to the
neglect or unjust treatment of neighbors by the
government, for example, in our name. The aim of
belief is certainly to affirm, comfort, and empower -
but not at the expense of one's neighbor.
Religion is about behavior not belief - just as the
truth is reflected in what one does. Religion is about
setting people free, not imposing sectarian or
political beliefs on them. It's about empowering
people, not gaining power over them. It's about
people's inalienable right to believe as they choose
and be who they are. It's about honoring people in
calling them by their own name, in experiencing their
reality not interpreting it. It's about loving one's
neighbor as oneself - here and on any Jericho road.